Spatial Distribution of Iron Within the Normal Human Liver Using Dual-Source Dual-Energy CT Imaging

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Abstract

Objectives

Explore the potential of dual-source dual-energy (DSDE) computed tomography (CT) to retrospectively analyze the uniformity of iron distribution and establish iron concentration ranges and distribution patterns found in healthy livers.

Materials and Methods

Ten mixtures consisting of an iron nitrate solution and deionized water were prepared in test tubes and scanned using a DSDE 128-slice CT system. Iron images were derived from a 3-material decomposition algorithm (optimized for the quantification of iron). A conversion factor (mg Fe/mL per Hounsfield unit) was calculated from this phantom study as the quotient of known tube concentrations and their corresponding CT values. Retrospective analysis was performed of patients who had undergone DSDE imaging for renal stones. Thirty-seven patients with normal liver function were randomly selected (mean age, 52.5 years). The examinations were processed for iron concentration. Multiple regions of interest were analyzed, and iron concentration (mg Fe/mL) and distribution was reported.

Results

The mean conversion factor obtained from the phantom study was 0.15 mg Fe/mL per Hounsfield unit. Whole-liver mean iron concentrations yielded a range of 0.0 to 2.91 mg Fe/mL, with 94.6% (35/37) of the patients exhibiting mean concentrations below 1.0 mg Fe/mL. The most important finding was that iron concentration was not uniform and patients exhibited regionally high concentrations (36/37). These regions of higher concentration were observed to be dominant in the middle-to-upper part of the liver (75%), medially (72.2%), and anteriorly (83.3%).

Conclusions

Dual-source dual-energy CT can be used to assess the uniformity of iron distribution in healthy subjects. Applying similar techniques to unhealthy livers, future research may focus on the impact of hepatic iron content and distribution for noninvasive assessment in diseased subjects.

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